Since starting genealogy in 1987 I have spent hours and hours mapping out my family tree. To learn about and attempt to understand my ancestors. Where they lived and what they did for a living has become very intriguing and important to me. One of my other passions has always been baking and to date I have only found two professional Bakers in my paternal lineage. George Pearson, my 4x Great Grandfather and his son William and of course my Mum too. So is it in my DNA?
As a child, I was always pinching the candied peel out of my Mum’s jar. Loved the taste and the crystallised sugar that formed in the middle. By dipping my hand into the jar quite often when Mum came to make my Dad’s favourite Madeira cake, there would only be a small piece left at the bottom of the jar! Boy did I get into trouble.
My love of baking definitely comes from consuming a lot of tasty sponge puddings and cakes. My Mum, Katherine (known as Kay) produced some very tasty food. She particularly liked making pastry, nearly always her go to pastry was shortcrust, half lard, half margarine and always self raising flour. Occasionally suet pastry for that delicious steak and kidney pud or rough puff for sausage rolls. As it was one of my Dad’s favourites I remember lots and lots and lots of apple pies, with golden pastry tops adorned with pastry leaves. Sometimes in a Pyrex dish with a pastry lid, sometimes a plate tart with pastry bottom and top. Apple pies were always served with lashings of custard – not the posh sort made from scratch but the Birds custard powder variety.
The list of delicious food is endless, roast dinners; treacle tarts; treacle puddings; spotted dick; jam tarts; mince pies; Victoria sandwich and she would always find time to make peanut brittle. Although we didn’t spend much time in the kitchen together she certainly inspired me. I was very much encouraged to enter the Abbey Park Show with jam tarts, shortbread, jam and homemade sweets.
As the time came to leave school, I was keen to be a domestic science teacher, but it was decided that 2 years doing A levels and 3 years at teacher training college was not an option. Instead, I spent 2 years at South Fields College, taking a City & Guilds Hotel and Catering qualifications. Although I learnt a lot at college, we cooked for large numbers, which was not really of interest to me. So on leaving, I started work as a hotel receptionist and kept cooking especially baking, as a hobby.
My Dad, Don, was also an excellent cook. Sunday mornings he would cook up a storm with his full English breakfast, the works, bacon, sausages, liver, tomatoes and a fried egg – oh and that extra slimming element of an English breakfast, fried bread. These days I only have a full English on rare occasions, but just writing this is making me wish I was tucking into one of my Dad’s. He also made horseradish sauce – it was HOT – and definitely made your eyes water.
Recently, however, after many many years of baking, I have had to follow a gluten-free diet – so baking cakes and the eating cake has lost some of its lustre and is currently on the back burner. Luckily this has meant more time for research. not to mention, weight loss, so always an upside.